Vol fans will need patience

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Tennessee Volunteers may have their guy needed to undo the mess left by Butch Jones. Earlier this week, Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer announced the hiring of Jeremy Pruitt as the Volunteers’ new coach.

While Tennessee has potentially made a fantastic hire, Volunteer fans would do themselves a service to remember it takes time for a new coach to install his recruits and coaching staff.

This rebuild task Pruitt is about to undertake is going to require some of the best talent development, as well as replenishing the talent lost during Jones’ final go-around.

Pruitt certainly knows the lay of the land, having played at Alabama for two years during his playing years.

Pruitt also bounced around the SEC coaching staffs, notably at Alabama for five seasons on the defensive coaching staff before departing for Florida State’s national championship run during the 2013 season.

Pruitt then spent two seasons at Georgia before returning to Alabama for another two-year stint as the Tide’s defensive coordinator.

Now Pruitt has his own chance at his own legacy, but he’ll have to overcome perhaps his toughest challenge: fans who want to win now.

Let’s be honest, Tennessee fans are notoriously fickle and let’s be honest. I can’t blame them a bit.

It’s been 10 years since the Vols’ last 10-win season. Any fan base stuck in football purgatory for that long is bound to get antsy.

But being impatient comes at a cost. Derek Dooley was never the guy for Tennessee. Lane Kiffin bolted in the dead of night for his “dream job” at USC following his one year in 2009.

And now that the Jones’ saga is complete in Knoxville, Tennessee fans need to take a step back and give Pruitt time to work.

As a West Virginia fan, I had the same level of impatience after Dana Holgorsen took over for Bill Stewart in 2010.

Holgorsen took WVU to a 10-3 season with a huge 70-33 win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

WVU has been less prosperous in terms of wins since then, as Holgorsen had a huge task of rebuilding a depleted roster that at one point was short of 20-plus scholarship players.

The 2012 WVU defense was arguably the worst in school history, followed by a brutal 4-8 season in 2013.

Similarly, Tennessee just underwent its worst season in school history with 4-8 as well.

While the Volunteers had talent at various positions, misuse and questionable playcalling by Jones and his staff left Tennessee without a single SEC win this season.

So now after Pruitt finishes his season with Alabama, he will turn his attention to rebuilding in Knoxville.

It won’t happen overnight, but if Pruitt can stabilize the Volunteers and get Tennessee back to at least playing competitive games next season, the wins will surely not be far off.

But fans need to remember, it takes time. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a night.

• Chris Siers is sports editor of the Times-Gazette. Email him at sports@t-g.com.